packed/storage: south jersey

tight chest & gleamy eyes

gaping out the window at some memories

which flow over the wide grasses

the flickering trees that flash by

as sunlight dapples, shades, twists

a hint of nostalgia, the recall

of something good. Spring has sprung

what can I fear? this is real, I think

or at least I was

loved here once

distanced hypothesizing

“poverty and death” said the classmate

self explanatory, the overused overwritten idea of something

never experienced completely known

to the point of cliche.

 –

I –  in whom these bitter texts

ring and resound like churchbells in my ribcage

painful, horrible truth

guilty of wealth, seeing that which is untouchably impoverished

– am incredulous that this hideous,

so close to my heart and home

is so easily exhausted when never encountered.

Reflections on Henry James

I can’t lie, I wasn’t intending to finish the assignment – reading Henry James’ novella Daisy Miller. After this long semester of pages and pages of readings, I was fairly worn out. However, in this case, the subject matter truly struck home, and I was captivated till the last sentence.

The story opens with a young English man, Winterbourne, as he meets an American girl, Daisy, in the city of Geneva. He is immediately taken with her, and she convinces him to meet her in Rome. Throughout their interaction in the book, there is this constant question – is she innocent and naive or manipulative and dangerous?

The cultural difference was key, in my mind. By the end I realized how I am both Daisy and Winterbourne – casually going about in foreign places with little idea of what is appropriate and simultaneously evaluating the actions of others based on my own experience.

i like who we are right now

here, time melts, unfrozen

and runs down to bathe us in wild sweat and tears

work, we are finally moving

getting things done worth doing, breathing

in the heartbeat of a second’s time won

over our own loves,

I can just be a person and not think why.

difficult to explain – let’s just say that I am finally sleeping deep

 in home’s arms.

no one is complaining about homework or food

because a fifteen year old girl died yesterday

and we are fighting for the moment,

winning some small part of glory for now

before we follow her.

you sit next to me in math

the way you see the world –

failing to plan like these all around us, happy

we are just taking each piece of life in turn

we are not of this land, we recognise the potted plants

when we see them. Transported, roots always with us

we love the sun as life.

We have been cooked into these other selves,

frozen and reheated

eaten up by them as plastic dinners

when our core is all organic,

full of the things they are searching for.

drowning

When I first went to India, I wrote a piece concerning drowning and being drowned in a culture that was not my own:

“Each of her parents had gone their own way. Her mother had walked out of an icy, damp land, hair blowing in the wind – Ireland, the place she mentioned with longing sighs and wistful glances out the door. Her father had stood tall on the decks of ships way out across the Caribbean, traversing the dangers of South America, a land that had chiseled him down and made him a man.

So it was only natural that, after they’d all been together on the plains of Africa, that she would dive off the deep end and drown herself in the madness of India.

The drop into India was longer than she expected. She fell silently, her eyes open and her arms outstretched, until she crashed into the water with a mighty SPLASH, where it tore at her clothes, ripping out her hair. She sank swiftly and silently, shooting down by her skeletons of dreams and tattered kelpy thoughts, sinking deeper and deeper into darker and darker waters.

She came up for air in Agra, where she found a sort of life raft named Andy which carried her along for a while so that she could wipe her hair out of her eyes and catch her breath. All the water she’d swallowed stayed down, and he told her that she should keep it there because it would keep her alive.”

(2008)

Now I am melting, falling into this wasteland that says I belong,

I am overcome with memories and confusion

this constant reminder of You Do Not Understand,

You Do Not Belong

even though I look and speak like a native

I have perfected this chameleon act, blending

speaking this language to communicate a modicum of thought.

 – And yet, it is never enough.

I am exhausted of getting everything wrong, failing

in work friendship conversation class assignment meeting

I truly just want to get back to a language I can speak fluently,

speaking the truth into every ear, bold in faith

knowing that I am wholly loved and that I love wholly.

Let me fight this current, hold down this fiery water that burns my lungs

offensive, grating, I will breathe it

and swim to summer shores

then from there learn how to breathe air again.

communication

I miss being the self that I understood.

Here, muted in color and thought, I am often lost

in my own words, confused. Before

here, I could say things in any language

and rarely be misunderstood

because directness is imperative

when one is only present for a moment at a time.

This frustration of tongue, that

what I mean and what I say can possibly be two different things – i

feel myself slipping,

sinking backwards behind a reality of protocol and what is cool,

swimming in masques of politeness and belonging.